Unlike the west, where engineering is one of the many options such as Basic Science, Literature, Business, Law, Medicine, Economics, Sociology and so on. In India, engineering seems to be the option for a vast majority of the students aspiring for a successful career. One could have given a simple answer to this trend by saying that the job prospects of an engineering graduate are much more compared to those in other disciplines in India. However, the answer in reality is not so simple. In fact, the number of factors contributing to this is large, such as the steep rate of economic growth in India, advent of Information Technology, success of Indian Professionals abroad etc. etc.

In recent times, the additional factors that have added to this are the increased pace of research culture in Indian industry and academia, the sudden emphasis on entrepreneurship and start-ups and advent of futuristic technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Virtual Realities and so on.

In this backdrop, let us examine the current opportunities of an Indian student in the arena of Higher Technical Education.

ARE THE OLD STREAMS OBSOLETE?

For ages, the traditional fields of engineering education such as mechanical, electrical, civil and chemical engineering had been the choice of technology students. In recent times it has been heavily tilted towards computer engineering where we find students are willing to give up a seat in a coveted institute to take admission in a lesser-known institute in computer engineering.

Does this mean that the traditional fields are heading towards a dead end? The answer is an emphatic, NO.

There is no denying that a big chunk of jobs today is from IT industry. But those jobs go to everyone from mechanical to chemical and even from biotechnology to metallurgical engineering (we should not forget that Sundar Pichai, the CEO of Google is a metallurgical engineer). For any engineer, computer savviness, coding skills and framing algorithms are important and advanced technological institutes do provide such trainings, hence the logic of looking at computer science for IT jobs does not stand strong. In fact, a vast majority work of computer science engineers in our country do not work in core computer science areas such as computer architecture, Operating Systems, and Networking etc.

Hence, the madness of getting a computer science seat is a misplaced and uninformed hysteria without any technical base to it. What a majority of engineers largely do is work on applications of computer technology for which in some cases the engineers from fields other than computer science are more appropriate.

On the other hand, India does need a large number of engineers to build the industrial, social and civic infrastructure such as roads, dams, bridges, factories, healthcare systems, educational institutions, water technologies, for which a large number of qualified ‘traditional’ engineers are required. As an example, one may see a tremendous shortage of senior lever quality civil engineers in the industry due to slump of civil engineering education two to three decades back. Hence, if one doesn’t look at just the first job but to the career spanning decades, he/she may stick to the traditional basic engineering stream which enables absorption of any emerging technologies due to its broad-based undergraduate education.

UPCOMING AREAS SUCH AS INDUSTRY 4.0

After three industrial revolutions of a stream, electricity and computers we are the doorsteps of the 4th revolution that is termed as, Industry 4.0, which is in broader terms known as integrated CPS (Cyber Physical Systems).

In this system, computers, sensors and communication systems are connected to the business and industrial processes such as Manufacturing, Chemical Processing industry, Pharmaceuticals, Banking, Finance and Healthcare Systems. Use of Big Data and Machine Learning are predicted to make Cyber Physical Systems more efficient and intelligent. Hence, it is obvious that only computer engineers cannot accomplish this. One needs mechanical, electrical, computer science, biological or materials science professionals to work together to get a product or solution. Let’s take for example, healthcare systems; In future the hospitals need to handle diagnostic systems which are AI based, with computer and with medical professionals analysing medical images such as MRI, CT Scan, X-Ray and then take up therapeutic steps such as Nanoparticle mediated targeted drug delivery or robotic surgery. Hence, all core engineering streams have an opportunity in these domains.

WHAT ARE THE OPTIONS THEN?

  • Emerging areas of study and research
  • Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning
  • IoT and Automation
  • Electric Vehicle and Battery Technology
  • Healthcare Technology
  • Water Technologies
  • Technologies against Climate Change

There are three things push a candidate to wrong decision in choosing engineering career and they are:

1.       Peer pressure

2.       Pressure from parents

3.       Stress about consequences

Each student has his/her own paradigms such as attitude towards society, towards life, enjoyments and accomplishments, and hence trying to dictate the path towards a satisfying career is a futile exercise. Hence, it is advised to relax and make an informed decision rather than succumbing to any sort of pressure.

(This is a slightly modified version of an article originally published in Tribune India. The original article can be found at https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/jobs-careers/are-you-embarking-on-the-right-engineering-course-104876)